Opportunity Area

How might we improve demand and access to essential maternal health medicines & supplies in Uganda??

The proposed title of your idea


Please describe your idea.

Sugarcane residue recycled into affordable sanitary pads for girls and women of menstrual going age from low income backgrounds

What problem does your idea solve in the market?

85% of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas and are categorized as low income earners at less than $1 per capita per day at household level. On average, a Ugandan household has 4 members, 2 of whom will most likely be female most likely of menstrual age. 24 sanitary pads is the recommended number to be used per cycle. On the market currently, a 6 piece packet costs UGX 3000 on average which means a household will be required to spend up to UGX 3000 X 4 X 2 equivalent to UGX 24,000 per month for its females to experience an infection free menstrual cycle.

Briefly explain how you identified the need or opportunity

At one of the innovation café organized at MUST a student shared a true life experience from her village in Isingiro district how undignifying the menstrual period can be for girls there. She sited a mother from her neighborhood who still gives old cloth pieces to each of her 3 daughters to use as sanitary pads during their menstrual period. The parents of these girls barely earn enough income from the food crops they grow to afford the available sanitary pads on market. As a team of females who have access to innovation platforms as well as such funding opportunities such as this, we were inspired to work towards changing this status quo.

Who are the beneficiaries of your solution and how will they benefit?

The primary beneficiaries of this product are; school going girls from low income backgrounds whose pursue of education has been affected by this challenge. Other non school going women from low income backgrounds such as women in prison, refugee camps, public hospitals, are also primary beneficiaries of this product. Generally, female Ugandans from high income earning backgrounds will too benefit from the low cost of this product as they will be able to make some saving.

Why are you convinced your solution will solve the problem?

Taking something that is totally used up and left for disposal and recycling it into raw materials, will significantly cut down costs of production. Sugarcane residues at the sugar manufacturing factories are the raw materials to our product and are obtained at an affordable price. We are convinced that the solution will work because it the low costs of production will significantly lower the price of this product.

What other initiatives like yours exist out there? How will you differentiate your solution?

a) Afri Pad is a reusable sanitary pad made out of cloth has been around for a couple of years made from a company started by two women from Melbourne. However, one Afripad 12 piece packet costs $4.65 (UGX 15,650) which still does not solve the issue of high costs. b) The Kasiisi Project Girls Support Program supplies imported sanitary pads to school going girls in Kisiizi district in Western Uganda at no cost. The question is “How sustainable is this?” c) Recently, the Uganda minister for Education and sports declared at a budget proposal meeting with parliamentarians, that the government of Uganda does not have funds in their budget to supply pads to school going girls who cannot afford them. All the above sampled initiatives do not address the challenges we are aiming to address. Our solution is different from others because it presents the lowest costs on market and is made out of repurposed locally available plant materials which ensure sustainability.

What have you done up-to date to test your idea with potential users? What learnings do you have to share?

First we conducted an experiment in the Micro Biology lab at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, to determine which one of the two between Maize and Sugarcane had residues with a high absorbance rate. Sugar cane emerged with a higher absorbance percentage and was selected as the plant to be considered as a raw material for this innovation. The second experiment was conducted to determine which specific type of sugarcane was to be used as a raw material. 5 different types were tested in this experiment and the sugarcane variety used at Kikira sugar works was selected as the best type to use as raw materials for this product. To date we have developed a prototype that has been fully tested in the lab (lab results attached) for absorbance using a fluid that is similar to blood in nature. We have now applied to the MUST Institutional Review Board for approval to test the prototype on girls and women for feedback on usability.

How will you financially sustain your business?

Our bill of materials for a 12 piece packet is estimated at UGX 600, an additional UGX 500 has been calculated to cover indirect costs and UGX 500 factor in as profit. This means that our 12 piece packet will cost approximately UGX 1600 at whole sale price. Through a grant fund such as this, we will be able to set up a local production facility with minimum machinery and manpower with a production capacity of 1000 packets per month. The income generated from these sales is what will be used to cover both direct and indirect costs of production. As the product positions itself well on the market, we will reach out to potential support partners such as government, NGOs and interested partners for support of expansion of the local production of this product. Our vision is to reach the production capacity of 100,000 packets per month by 2020. We will also conduct educative initiative on local income generation at family level in order to equip families to be able to afford the product.

Please share a link to a 3 minute online video that best describes your idea and team


Please tell us about each founder and their roles on the team. How do you know your founders and how long have you worked together?

a) Asiimwe Lydia (MPAM, BED) a staff of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, has 6 years of experience working with rural communities in Western Uganda. She led initiatives to support youths and other vulnerable groups of people, ensuring their rights were protected. She understands the struggles that girls and women from poor background go through because she spent years interacting with them. b) Mbabazi Suzan is a second year students at Mbarara University of Science and Technology now pursuing a bachelors in Computer Engineering. As a young university student, she is concerned that some girls have had to drop out of school because of the shame they feel when menstruating and using very old dirty clothes. c) Aijuka Noella a third year students at Makerere University now pursuing a bachelors of Biomedical Engineering spends time studying failed technologies in hospitals and coming us with better technology solutions. She was inspired to start t

Please tell us about other team members that are not cofounders.

a) Jemimah Owomuhangi graduated with bachelors of Adult and Community education. b) Sam Kazibwe a third year students at MUST pursuing a bachelors of Information Technology. c) Namatovu Shakira is a second year students at MUST pursuing a bachelors of planning and development studies.

Which members of your team will attend the program full-time?

a) Asiimwe Lydia a part time staff of MUST, b) Aijuka Noella a Biomedical Engineer from Makerere University c) Jemimah Owomuhangi graduated with bachelors of Adult and Community education.

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  • Lydia Asiimwe Sabiiti
  • Posted 1 year ago
  • Modified 1 year ago